Updated 2.22pm with MFA statement
Construction tycoon Joseph Portelli has handed in his resignation as president of Ħamrun Spartans football club, with the intention of registering himself as a player with the club’s first team.
Portelli reportedly intends to kit up for the Premier League club as a player. According to Malta Football Association rules, a club president is precluded from being registered as a player with that same club.
Ħamrun Spartans CEO Marcel Bonnici confirmed that Portelli had tendered his resignation as president, but refused to provide any details as to why he had done so.
But a source close to the tycoon told Times of Malta that the move is intended to pave the way for Portelli to play for the club.
Portelli has no intention of being a regular player, the source said, but has long harboured the wish of playing some minutes in Malta's top football league. Nor does he intend to permanently severe his ties with the top-flight club.
MFA may block registration
Portelli's plan may be stymied by the MFA, however, which has the final say over player registrations.
In a brief statement to Times of Malta, the MFA acknowledged that Portelli had resigned as club president and said it was aware that he may be seeking to register himself as a player with the club.
"In that case, the association may elect not to accept such resignation. Rather, it would be referred to the competent bodies in compliance with its Reputational Risk Management Policy – a document that is public and which is endorsed by its Executive Board," the MFA said.
The MFA's Reputational Risk Management Policy states that registrations which "could be deemed as potentially damaging for the reputation of the Association" can be referred to its ethics committee.
Familiar ground for Portelli
Should Portelli's plan succeed, the 45-year-old would be the oldest registered player in Malta's top division, topping 41-year-old veteran Michael Mifsud.
It is familiar territory for Portelli, who last April registered as a player for Gozitan first division club Nadur Youngsters, scoring a penalty in a 1-1 draw in their final game of the season.
Portelli has strong ties to the Nadur club, having served as its president before passing on the reins to his son Tristen. He quit that club in 2020 when he chose to focus his efforts on Ħamrun Spartans. He was made Spartans president in 2021.
Within a year, Ħamrun were crowned champions and followed that up with an impressive run in the UEFA Conference League qualification rounds.
The club is now seeking to redevelop its stadium and incorporate commercial developments into it. Portelli has insisted that he will not profit from that project, saying income will be ploughed back into the club.
Correction February 3, 2023: A previous version misstated Portelli's age. He is 45, not 42.